A Poverty of Attention

July 13, 2010

Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

When was the last time you were really still and focused?  On the Lord, your spouse, your family, your work?  Or are your busy multi-tasking – even in your quiet time and time with family?  Do you interrupt your prayer, train of thought, or conversation whenever your cell phone beeps or vibrates with a text, e-mail or call?  How many windows do you have open at a time on your computer (right now I have 5, one is my Internet browser and it has 14 tabs open – not a good example)

When was the last time you spent a full hour focused on any one thing with NO interruptions?

In his book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, Tony Schwartz makes the statement that “our attention is under siege.”  He goes on to say:

The consequence is that our lives have been divided into smaller and smaller increments of focus.  We do more things than ever, but we’ve lost control of our attention.  More than 50 percent of American workers say they’re interrupted so often that they find it difficult to get their work done.  We’re too busy trying to keep up even to focus on the fact that the way we’re working isn’t working.”

He quotes Maggie Jackson, who wrote Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, as follows, “We are allowing ourselves to be ever-more entranced by the unsifted trivia of life.  To value a split-focused life . . . is above all to squeeze out potential time and space for reflection, which is the real sword in the stone needed to thrive in a complex, ever-shifting new world.  In the name of efficiency, we are diluting some of the essential qualities that make us human.

Tony Schwartz goes on to explain how studies have confirmed that multi-tasking is really not efficient at all and much less effective than focusing on single tasks in a sequential manner.

So, try an experiment today.  For one hour, shut down your e-mail, put your cell on silent, put your office phone on “Do Not Disturb” and then focus on one key priority task with your full attention.  If you can’t squeeze out an hour, try 30 minutes. You might be amazed at the results.  We are inherently creative beings, but our creativity is one aspect that multi-tasking kills.

What are some of your methods for dealing with this poverty of attention?

Have a blessed day!

BG